Cousins prepare for family effort at national rodeo

By Marc Schoder

One part of an eastern New Mexico family has taken the life of rodeoing since the age of seven.
Cousins Kodi Armitage and Tori Bilberry, both 17 and seniors-to-be at Elida High School will compete along with their first cousins Rana and Payton Terry, both 17 and seniors-to-be at Dora High School. All four have earned a position on the state high school team set to compete at the 57th Annual National High School Finals Rodeo.
“It is really exciting that we all get to have the chance to go and compete in Gillette,” said Bilberry. Bilberry added that a point scale from one to 10 is given at each competition throughout the year and the individual with the most points gets to go on to the national competition.
“We all believe in one another and we have a very supportive family,” said Bilberry. This small group of cousins will be traveling with fellow teammates to Gillette, Wyo. July 18-24.
“These kids have really progressed and have become really good,” said Bobby Grimes, coach of the Portales area high school rodeo team. The finals feature more than 1,500 contestants from 40 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia.
In addition to competing for over $125,000 in prizes, Contestants will also be vying for more that $225,000 in college scholarships and a chance to be named the National High School Rodeo National Champion.
Payton Terry echoes the same thoughts as Bilberry.
“It feels good for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Terry. Terry adds that it is great that he gets to go to nationals with his three other cousins.
The group of cousins will be competing in separately in four different events. Armitage will complete in goat tying, Tori Bilberry in breakaway roping and cutting. Rana Terry in pole bending and Payton Terry in tie down calf roping.
“We get to practice every day either together or apart for one to three hours per day,” said Payton Terry.
Rana Terry added that the foursome had reached the goal that all of them had wanted since they were little.
Grimes, a security guard at Portales High who has coached the area rodeo program for about 10 years, has steadily seen the number of local qualifiers rise.
“The first year I took one girl and it grew from then,” said Grimes.
Another cousin, Trent Bilberry from Elida High School, earned a position on the New Mexico Junior High School Rodeo Team in Tie Down Calf Roping. Trent, 13, is set to compete in Gallup later this week in the National Junior High School Rodeo Finals.